By: Michael Gagliardi
All Giants fans let out a collective sigh on Sunday, as not only did the Giants lose a winnable game, but also lost Saquon Barkley with a torn ACL. The loss of Barkley is absolutely brutal, and may well bring us another Giants season that will be meaningless by November unless the rest of the division is in a real tailspin. The first half of the Giants’ Week 2 game against the Bears started out with the Giants playing just as bad as they ever have these past few years. The defense was a sieve, and the offense couldn’t move the ball at all, in addition to a costly sack-fumble on the opening drive. However, in the second quarter, things started to look up. The defense seemed to tighten up a little, and the offense started to get some rhythm going, with Saquon racking up 28 yards on 4 carries, but then BAM: and the momentum was all gone. Jones actually led a solid drive after the injury but threw a costly pick in Bears territory to end it. That pick was not all on Jones, however, as Evan Engram fell down right before the ball got to him, but it seemed like a very forced ball.
The Giants made good second-half adjustments, though, as the Bears did not score after the break (the Giants turning them over twice) and Jones led 3 huge drives without his best player, but they just couldn’t finish the potential game-winner. Some people are calling for Jones’s and Gettleman’s heads after this defeat, but let’s pump the brakes. Yes, the first half was a disaster, but the second half showed a lot of promise and substance to grow on. Keep in mind: if the Bears don’t complete a batted pass on 4th and 1 to an O-lineman who was picking himself up off the ground for a first down, or if Saquon’s ACL survives that tackle, I’m convinced that the Giants pull this one out without much of an issue, and Jones is universally championed by the fan base. Whatever the case may be, let’s get to the focus of this: the rookies.
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), Matt Peart (3rd) Shane Lemieux (5th), TJ Brunson (7th), Carter Coughlin (7th), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad):
McKinney is still on IR, and might be back for the last few weeks of the season. We can only hope that he returns and takes snaps away from Corey Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom, as those two have not been good. Ballentine got torched by rookie WR Darnell Mooney on the Bears’ last TD of the game, losing his man on a horrible desperation heave by Trubisky, which should have been at least an easy pass defense for Ballentine. He seems to have been benched the entire second half since Logan Ryan took most second-half snaps at CB. McKinney’s return would allow Ryan to play CB full-time, and allow Julian Love to be more versatile, rather than being locked into FS.
Peart was active but did not play again. Maybe he’ll get some time late in the season if the Giants decide that the season is over and it’s time to evaluate the young guys. Believe me, I don’t want to see the Giants give up like this, but if it’s really bad this season, then I’d like to see what Peart can do.
The same that was said for Peart can go for Lemieux, although I think that Shane will be a better player right off the bat. If the Giants are as high on Lemieux as I think they are, then Kevin Zeitler could potentially be shopped before the deadline or cut for cap room next year, as his contract could cause troubles down the road.
Brunson and Coughlin were both inactive Sunday, and I’m surprised about Coughlin because he played fine on special teams in week 1. I guess they’re just feeling out special teams positions for the young guys in these early weeks because of the lack of preseason games.
Chris Williamson remains on the practice squad. If Ballentine and Yiadom continue to look bad, the Giants may bring him up and give him a chance in the defensive backfield.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
It would be very easy to rag on Thomas for giving up a sack-fumble, but in all honesty, he had 4 bad plays on Sunday, by my count. The sack-fumble was a bad block on Robert Quinn, but it should not have been more than a sack. Jones seemed to fall back into his old ways in the first half on Sunday, and on this play, he was patting the ball instead of being decisive, and in the process, was caught with only one hand on the ball. Yes, Thomas got beat on this play, but the severity of the error would have been under much less of a microscope if Jones had hung onto the ball. It would have been seen as a guy in his 2nd career game losing a rep to a high-level veteran pass-rusher. Throughout the game, Thomas seemed to struggle much more with Quinn than he did with Kahlil Mack. He really seemed to put the clamps on Mack, and just about completely locked him up on the last 2 drives of the game. Yes, Mack recorded a sack where he ran right by Thomas, but this was not the rookie’s fault. Thomas took the inside man, as he should have; Jones should have shifted the protection or assigned Dion Lewis to get in the way as soon as he saw Mack outnumbering the left side of the line. Even though Thomas did not grade well this week, the eye test still shows that he played a good game against one of the league’s premier pass-rushing duos, and improved greatly as the game went on.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
Holmes, who was eaten up by Juju Smith-Schuster last week, had a bit of an enigmatic game on Sunday. There were several completions when he was in the area and looked like he could have been the one who should have made the play, but it was unclear. Often when this happened, it seemed like the Bears were preying on Holmes's lack of experience, and sitting in between his zone and another player’s zone on their routes. I’d be willing to bet that this is something the Bears saw at halftime, as Holmes was barely targeted in the first half. In the second half, however, Holmes was credited for giving up 3 first downs, and two of them came on plays like this. On the other first down, the 5’10”, 195lb Holmes was just physically overmatched by the Bears’ 6’6”, 262lb tight end Cole Kmet. He wasn’t in bad coverage on Kmet’s comeback route, and on a smaller player, he may have very well knocked the ball out, but the bigger man won the rep. In the run game, Holmes missed a tackle and consistently got clamped up by the Bears’ receivers on blocks. Holmes definitely has potential, but if he wants to be a successful corner in this league, he needs to learn how to play the run, no matter how undersized he may be. After this game, it is clear that Holmes needs to play the run better, but also understand that in zone coverage if there is nobody in your zone, you shouldn’t just stand there covering air. You have to keep in mind where the opposing receivers are while reading the QB’s eyes. If Holmes did this properly on Sunday, I think the Bears’ receivers would not have had anywhere near the amount of success they had by sitting in between the zones on him.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
The rookie from Penn State was activated this week for special teams duty, seemingly over his fellow rookie edge rusher, Carter Coughlin. Cam Brown, or “Lorenzo Carter Jr,” as I call him, did not record any stats on Sunday in his first NFL action, but on the opening kickoff, he absolutely blew UP Bears safety Deon Bush, who was assigned to block him. When you talk about a tone-setting play to start the game, this is exactly what you’d want from a young guy trying to make his presence felt. He de-cleated the smaller man, sending him about 4 yards backward, and then pursued the ball carrier and drove him towards the sideline, where Logan Ryan made the tackle. Another thing that I like about this play is that Brown was the first man downfield, and on the second kickoff, the Bears focused enough on stopping him that they double-teamed him. I also noticed a very good block by him on Peppers’s longest punt return of the day. If Brown can translate his athleticism and size into quality play from scrimmage, then he can be an impact player in the future. For now though, hopefully, he will make an impact on specials going forward.
LB Tae Crowder (7th):
Ahh yes, Mr. Irrelevant himself. I’ve been pretty high on Crowder ever since I took a look at his college tape. Not that he’s going to be a high-quality starter in the league anytime soon necessarily, but if he plays some meaningful snaps from scrimmage this year I wouldn’t be surprised. After being sidelined with a hamstring injury last week, Crowder played his first NFL game on special teams. He did not record any stats other than 1 game played, but he also did not do anything negative on the field either, which for a 7th round pick in his first NFL action is all you can hope for. I did notice a nice block from him on a kick return and good pursuit on kick coverage. I look forward to seeing Crowder progress this year.
What to Expect Next Week:
Next week, the Giants play an injury-riddled 49ers team. Yes, there is no Saquon for the Giants, but DeVonta Freeman should be serviceable, and Gallman and Lewis should see extra reps. Finally, Andrew Thomas will have a little bit of a break in the quality of rusher he will be blocking, as DE Nick Bosa and, likely, DT Solomon Thomas are out for the year with ACL tears and DE Dee Ford is doubtful for Sunday. It will be very telling how Thomas plays against lesser competition, and from what I’ve seen from Thomas these past few weeks against the best of the best, I think he’ll show everyone that he was well worth the 4th overall pick. The 49ers will also be without RB Raheem Mostert, and will likely be without TE George Kittle, so expect Holmes to be tested all day, as the only WR that’s down for San Francisco is Deebo Samuel. However, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is generally expected to dress Sunday, is still listed as questionable, so if Jimmy G. is out or not on point, I’m expecting a much better game from Holmes and the whole Giants defense. As for Cam Brown and Tae Crowder, all we can hope for from them is to continue their solid special teams play and to not do anything negative. Hey, a special teams turnover couldn’t hurt either! I believe that the Giants will bounce back this week, and beat the injury-depleted 49ers, and if the rest of the division continues to look bad, maybe even re-enter the division race.